How to Write an Op-Ed Column

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Do you have a strong opinion about relevant issues? Do friends and colleagues typically ask for your take on hot-button issues? If you're able to communicate your unique views on current events in a way that's concise, catchy and memorable, you may be the ideal op-ed columnist. Consider a few key points to improve the odds of getting your work published regularly.

Be Quick

  • The point of an op-ed piece is to state your opinion quickly. Readers that come across your column are not expecting a scholarly article and do want your take on things in a hurry. You've got, at most, 750 words to make your point, so keep your focus narrow, your verbs active and don't waste time. It's also important that your piece be related to a trending topic that has been in the news recently. Responding to news stories within a day or two with your own perspective will help you get more exposure and traffic, especially in online pieces.

Accessibility

  • Opinion articles should be intended for a wide audience. Don't weigh your writing down with clunky acronyms or industry jargon. Keep it substantive, but do so in a way that does not confuse or condescend to your reader. It's also a good idea to keep sentences short. Avoid clauses linked together into confusing structures that require several readings. Take this as an opportunity to be conversational and to develop your own voice, especially if you typically write for academic publications.

Solutions vs. Rants

  • By nature, opinion articles are usually strongly worded. Use this strategy sparingly. If discussing a contemporary problem in the news, offer a simple, to-the-point solution and avoid ranting about the topic. Some intensity will attract your readers, but too much will alienate them. Also, if space allows, briefly discuss the counter-arguments to your issue, especially if you're able to quickly refute them. Don't spend too much time on this topic, however. Remember that brevity is key and your readers are likely already aware of opposing viewpoints on popular issues.

Submission

  • Once you've crafted a concise, engaging article, submit it within the timeline and per the guidelines of the publisher. Many publishers require your piece be exclusively published by them, so give them three days to a week to turn down your article before pursuing publication elsewhere. When submitting your article, include a brief description of your qualifications, unless writing as a private citizen. Don't expect a response unless the article will be published and never harass newspapers or magazines for a response. They will get in touch with you if they like your work.

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